...That we lost out on the world cup
or rather, that we lost out in such abysmal, ridiculous, painful and disgusting fashion
Oh yes, I am - don't get me wrong, I wanted the cup here as much as the next fan, and I even thought we might get it (although I bet on Russia, as is my rule), I was always expecting Russia to win
And so was every self-respecting football fan with an ounce of intelligence - deep down, we all knew that Russia would take it, because we are England, and they are FIFA, that is the natural order of things
For the last few years we have been hoping, even believing, that it was 'our time', that we would finally be allowed to host the biggest competition in the world again
But alas, reality bites - nothing was going to beat that map of world cups and those Russian puppy dog eyes (note: not actual map used), Prince William be damned
So. why am I glad about how we lost?
Well, simply because I think we expected decent support in the voting - we expected for it to go to the wire, sure Russia might win, but we'd lose in heroic fashion and say 'fair cop'
Instead, we get one non-English vote, crash out at the first hurdle with not even a look in, showing complete and utter disrespect from the governing body, cue outrage
It is not hyperbole to say that to be dismissed in such a way is outrageous, because it is - the hopeless, virtually token bid of Belgium/Netherlands received more votes than we did, England didn't simply lose, they were snubbed (as indeed were the greenie Low Countries, and symbolic Iberia)
And it is for that reason I find a little glint of hope - because from this we can no longer simply shrug our shoulders like we do after every penalty shoot-out we lose, this calls for drastic and severe action - FIFA needs reforming and we all bloody know it, I was pretty much brought up understanding that FIFA were corrupt to the core - had we lost by a few votes we'd just take it on the chin, say Russia had a point and sit back down, but now we're all rather pissed off*
Is this typical English 'arrogance' or sour grapes that your usual nay-saying smart-arse will claim? No, I've already said that I thought Russia would win, and I don't take issue with them winning, if anything it's Qatar that is the shining example of the absolute bullshit that comes out of FIFA, my real issue is the fact that clearly the FIFA delegates had decided who they wanted, while the bidders jumped through hoops, very expensive hoops
England did have the best bid, that's not my opinion or arrogance, but the opinion of FIFA inspectors - Russia had the worst of the 2018 bidders, and surprise surprise, Qatar had the worst of both
I've admitted Russia had a case, having never hosted it, but my point is what was the bloody point of spending astronomical amounts of money on technical bids and reports when it counted for absolutely zero? Why does FIFA insist on us saying how good we are when they don't even care and give it to the worst one?
We're supposed to be swaying the opinions of 22 (24) men with this, if they aren't neutral judges then what's even the point - they knew where it was going and let us rave on about how much better we are, we even chose stadiums! All that is worth one vote, we might as well have put Afghanistan forward, there's an illusion of a meritocratic system, but it's clearly non-existent and I for one am grateful, unlike Blatter, that 2022 was decided at the same time, because it seriously showed up the weaknesses/corruption in the hosting selection process, the 2018 decision probably wouldn't have alone
They get our hopes up, pretending to have a fair contest, and in reality a dozen or so men long ago decided to give it to Russia and an oil rich micro-state
Why bother with a voting process? It seems to be completely against what FIFA espouse, and let's face it, they have always decided where to send the cup
2002 was effectively decided by Havelange (he before Blatter) deciding to have an Asian World Cup - there was at least a fair fight, but it was only between two nations and of course, resulted in a co-hosted event (so Sepp was wrong on Thursday when he said there must be losers)
2006 (which was ten years ago in voting terms) was the only time since 1992 to feature an actual open contest, in which Germany snuck through thanks to a Kiwi abstaining
That decision resulted in the frankly ludicrous rotation system which ensured that Blatter's choice for 2006, South Africa, was given 2010
This system was then used once more as it proved convenient to give a tournament to Brazil, who faced no competition, and then it was dropped - the rotation of five continents lasted all of two turns...
And now we have a country that is half the size of Wales, in both area and population, hosting the 2022 cup - there are going to be 'cities' the size of...I can't even think of a famous place small enough for reference - Newmarket? hosting matches with over 40,000 spectators
It wasn't that long ago (about a week actually) that you would be laughed out of town for suggesting a small country could host such a big event - the European championships are deemed too big for Scotland and pretty much all of Europe, yet they give a whole world cup to a desert country the size of Cyprus? Can you imagine Ireland (over six times bigger) bidding? Or how about Kuwait, or Swaziland! The only nations that are smaller are mostly the always overlooked island members of CONCACAF, and the various micro and city-states around the world, invariably the issues of infrastructure and legacy come up
Making my point here? This isn't about new places, arguably there's the middle east angle - but that never seemed to be the agenda, and Saudi and Egypt seem much more sensible choices, Qatar's population of 1.5 million is laughable - how is that bringing football to the people? If it's for the middle east in general it's like playing a European cup in the Vatican, there will be no real home side, it's a bunch of stadiums in a small space for the world to come...actually that would be a good idea, create little zones in regions...
Anyway, do I even need to list the populations of previous hosts? Brazil are about 200 million, South Africa 50, Germany 80, Japan/Korea 180, France 60 and so on and so on, the only host that comes near to this level of anonymity are the first ever hosts - Uruguay, who at least have their own identity and aren't just an oil field full of migrant workers
oh and 2026 has already been earmarked for China supposedly...who knows how they'll decide to make that fit into the rules, a country that is virtually non-existent in the football world...after a country that is virtually non-existent in the football world
Then of course there's the human rights issue - FIFA make great statements about holliganism, racism and the environment - so they pick Russia, who have severe issues with all three, as you may know, and an absolute monarchy, where you can't drink in public, show affection etc, in a desert that will require a dozen fully air conditioned stadiums to be built - go FIFA!...maybe they are bringing gay rights to the Middle East?
So I think we have some right to complain here - and the people who think we're being arrogant really need to understand how this thing works, they are assuming that the meritocratic system that the media for some reason portrayed is true, and that we didn't 'deserve' to win really - nobody ever deserves to win, and this is how it has always been:
Italy were given their second cup in 90, France in 98, Germany in 2006 (so yes, Spain would have been truly a kick in the teeth this time)
The inventors of the game now will have to wait 64 years for a second tournament, longer than any other major power** except Brazil, and I bet Spain will be given the next European one...
In fact, if you look at it from the economic side (which FIFA always do) they are incredibly arrogant on this - by giving it to Russia and making western Europe wait even longer (12 years was already a record European gap) they snub their biggest market for probably 24 years, they act with complete disdain for England, but they are a huge market - not a growth area like Asia, and taken for granted, but still worth mega-bucks, there's a reason western Europe is overrepresented, and Blatter is callous by insisting on moving to expanding markets - Germany was the most lucrative cup in recent years and I would bet it stays that way past 2022
Of course, let's not overlook that Qatar was chosen for it economic situation - not only the oil and gas, but it's position in the world - a mere three hours ahead of GMT, meaning that games can be played at 10 or 11pm at a convenient time for Europe, and with that desert heat in the day...
FIFA gets to move in to the middle east, and Asia in general, while catering to its European cash-cows, thus having its cake and eating it
That's why it's unlikely Australia will ever get it - being both a small, already developed market, geographically isolated, and having a poor position in the world clock means they are a very weak prospect, despite being a great choice for many fans they would simply not offer enough to FIFA, even though I doubt Russia will create much wealth with it's known problems in security and travel, there's probably ample opportunity to line the pockets, and Moscow time isn't too bad
Anson's right, it's not even worth bidding without massive reforms to FIFA, and thankfully I can't see Blatter hanging on past this period of office, either professionally or physically, so maybe we'll have less of the supposedly all-powerful dictator with his crusade to take the tournament to such overlooked and under-appreciated members as Qatar
Was it the media?
No, and frankly anyone who has a whinge about out media exposing the truth should go and live in Russia or Qatar and see how they like it - do you want to live in a world where the media are simply yes men to the mighty FIFA so that they may reward us with a tournament once a century?
We have a free press, that should not count against us, and frankly if that has counted against us I don't want the bloody world cup, if all they want is a free ride from their mates in the media then all their talk of human rights is utter bullshit
We should be exposing their corruption, not condoning it, and the real issue here is that FIFA are totally unaccountable, they have no link to the fans and are isolated from the member associations, like some sort of bastard child of the UN and the EU - I'm glad our media stuck it to them (and so did the Spanish by the way) and they need to keep it up, the only way to make FIFA do anything is to hound people like Blatter out, not pander to him
So how do you reform FIFA?
It's complex, a lot people seem to advocate the IOC method, which opens the ballot to a far bigger electorate - but to be honest that has just as many problems these days, the World Cup is just a bigger event, I don't see how allowing 200 votes in itself would help - you would end up with the Eurovision Song Contest where Russia cajoles all it's little satellites into voting for it, while we get Ireland...if we're lucky
24 is a ridiculously tiny number and it should be expanded - that won't solve many problems, but it's a start, I'll give you a very odd, but true, scenario - Australia were the only bidder without representation on the voting panel (the 'ExCo')
Even England were allowed Geoff Thompson, but Australia were guaranteed no votes - Temarii, who was suspended, would have been a cert, despite not even being from the same confederation anymore, but regardless, to have eight of the nine bids represented by their own national associations is just plain wrong - I wouldn't say it's FIFA's worst aspect, but it shows a lack of consideration in the structure, either give them all a vote or none, like the IOC, don't allow a powerful nation like France or Russia to crush you
And there's a lot to be said for letting all members in, the block voting needs to be worked out, but clearly having some countries represented (like...Qatar) and most others not, affects loyalties and effectively skews the result, at least all members would be fairer, the panel of 24 are clearly only acting in self-interest so there's no point in them - let's face it, if Qatar weren't on that committee would they have had Blatter's ear? It's bizarre to think that Australia and Qatar (and indeed Japan and Korea) are both in the same confederation, and yet one is massively handicapped by it's own representative
Basically the whole system of lobbying individuals needs to be ceased, as does the remarkable executive power of the president, it needs to be a fair fight considering all the options - yes someone has to lose, but to waste countries like England, Australia, Spain, the US and Belgium's time is unforgivable when you give it to the countries with the worst technical and economic outlook, at least say beforehand that you want to give it to a country that needs to build 13 stadiums, rather than ones that already have the infrastructure in place because what was the point in even asking for that information when you wanted the converse??
You could weight or rank the bids, weight the confederations by strength, instead of giving crucial votes to minnows (see: New Zealand), anything to stop an old Swiss man and his cronies getting their own way - hell, give it to some external judges to decide, less people from dodgy organisations with their fingers in all the pies
*None of this means a thing will happen, it's politics after all, but I'm an optimist
**Major power being a country that has done well, and can still host it